Debates Day 6 - Thursday 15 May 2014
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 15 May 2014 4494 regulations and accounting standards. This could include all aspects of council finances, including money spent on local authorities. Member for Nhulunbuy, I hope that goes some way in answering your questions, and hopefully it alleviates some of your concerns. Ms Walker: Do the guidelines still exist for conditional rating? Mr TOLLNER: Member for Nhulunbuy, I am advised there will be a practice note direction coming from the department to assist councils with that. The member for Nelson raised the issue of rating on Aboriginal land. This goes to the heart of what is in the Deloitte report on the financial sustainability of councils. In relation to that, I am disappointed with the lack of contribution from the members for Namatjira, Arafura and Arnhem, who have been silent in this whole debate. I will explain why I am disappointed. Prior to them leaving this governments benches we were discussing the appropriateness of rating Aboriginal land. I was convinced this is the direction we should take local government. No matter where you live in the Northern Territory you should pay rates. If the member for Barkly lives in Tennant Creek and comes to Darwin he drives on Darwin City Council roads and uses Darwin City Council services. Similarly, if someone from Darwin goes to Tennant Creek they use Barkly Regional Council services. It hardly seems fair that some people are exempt from that. The changes to the Darwin Rates Act pick up all of the unincorporated land in the Northern Territory, and the next step is rating Aboriginal land. Those three members seemed to think I was trying to start a war between Aborigines. I think the line was, You just want a war with blacks fighting blacks. I could not imagine anything further from the truth. I am keen to see local government and land councils working together in a cooperative way. For the record, with regional authorities something we have not seen is the merge of local government and land functions to the point where they work harmoniously and as one unit. The reality is, in the bush it is extraordinarily difficult for local government to make decisions on Aboriginal land which impact on land councils. Land councils will often determine what can go where and local government, in some regard, gets the short end of the stick. The other side of the coin is land councils may want a road developed somewhere and if local government jacks up and says, Were not doing it, things do not happen. It is my strong view that people need to work more closely together and more cooperatively. Rating Aboriginal land is the first step towards bringing land councils and local government closer together and seeing some cooperation between regional councils and land councils. When I raised that with the three bush members they said that was not the way to go and they would like to give me a proposal to do it better. I waited for weeks to get a response from them as to how they could make it better. Obviously, nothing came about and we are having a debate. In the near future I will introduce a bill which includes the Territory government not standing in the way of land councils paying rates because currently, if I am correct, Territory government legislation gets in the way of rating on Aboriginal land. At least we can move one hurdle out of the way. I have received no input from those three bush members. If you think about the bush, very few areas are as important as local government. I am heartened to see the member for Stuart paying attention to this. She has been in my ear quite a bit about how local government should be treated, similarly the member for Daly, and I am thrilled to see the member for Barkly taking an interest. I understand it is late at night and the member for Barkly has better things to do, but as a bush member he is so interested in what goes on in local government that he is here. The member for Nhulunbuy has, not just as shadow minister, a deep interest in local government. That is appropriate when you have an electorate like Nhulunbuy. Obviously the member for Nelson, who cut his teeth in local government, has a deep and abiding interest in local government and that is fantastic. I like to bounce ideas off all you guys and see how they float. However, it is extraordinarily disappointing when the three members who scream the loudest saying nothing is happening in the bush are not here to participate in the debate. They are not here to put up an idea or say how they think things should operate in an area so important in the bush. Having said that, I do not want to waffle on for too long because I know people are keen to get going. I have a speech in relation to councils but I might skip that. I thank Allan McGill, Chief Executive of the Department of Local Government and Regions, and Lee Williams for being here tonight. Earlier tonight I asked the members for Nelson and Nhulunbuy if they wanted to take this bill to committee stage. They said, No, we are happy if you can answer a couple of questions. I thank the member for Nhulunbuy for giving me those
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